Ecology & Biodiversity Net Gain

Ecology surveys are becoming more and more crucial in today’s world. Proposed developments, whether domestic or commercial, now almost always require some form of ecology survey to assess how a habitat/landscape might be affected by said development.

Our team of practical, innovative thinking ecologists are fully licensed to work with most protected species including great crested newts and bats, and have a wide range of practical experience with key species such as birds, reptiles and mammals, including badgers.

With biodiversity net gain due to become mandatory for all development projects, we can support you to understand the full implications and opportunities for your proposals.

Whether you are delivering a small or large-scale project our highly experienced and practical team can support you with all of the ecological requirements of your planning application.

Our Capabilities

Phase 1 Habitat surveys and Preliminary Ecological Appraisal

An Extended Phase 1 Habitat survey, which often forms a baseline for Preliminary Ecological Appraisal, is usually the first stage of ecological involvement for a project and is a critical element to get right.

Our in-house team of experienced ecologists are comprehensively trained in habitat assessment and are capable of evaluating the extent of further surveys required to reduce costs and limit potential time delays for all parties concerned.

We routinely survey in sufficient detail to apply to a future assessment of Biodiversity Net Gain if required and can record using the UK Hab plant assessment system if desired.

Protected Species Surveys

Our team has all the necessary skills, experience and licences to complete a range of ecological surveys to satisfy planning requirements and conditions. A selection of the species we are able to survey in-house is provided below:

  • Badgers
  • Bats (both Preliminary Roost Assessment and a wide range of further Phase 2 surveys, including hibernation assessments and bespoke/non-standard surveys as required)
  • Birds (including specialist assessments such as for wintering and wetland birds, species-specific and nocturnal thermal imaging surveys).
  • Dormouse
  • Great Crested Newt
  • Invertebrates
  • Otters
  • Reptiles
  • Water vole

We are able to draw on our wider site teams at Nicholsons where required, for example, aerial assessment of trees using Mobile Elevated Working Platforms, as well as working closely with other disciplines such as our arboricultural and forestry teams.

Mitigation Works

Working both in-house and with a network of trusted sub-contractors, Nicholsons’ ecologists are able to licence and manage most ecological constraints on-site through the construction phase.

This includes developing mitigation strategies for protected species (for example translocation programmes for reptiles, and input into bat lighting schemes) and Natural England licence applications and delivery of licenced works for European protected species, such as bats and great crested newts.

Our team of experienced ecologists are also able to work as Ecological Clerk of Works to manage issues on site, for example, provision of Toolbox Talks to contractors, pre-commencement checks for ecology constraints, and nesting bird checks. Our licenced bat ecologists can handle bats, and therefore support works under Natural England licences.

Ecological Impact Assessment (EcIA)

We are able to conduct a full EcIA which can stand alone as an ecological report or form part of a full Environmental Impact Assessment.

We develop these reports using thorough desk research, engaged consultation with stakeholders and site surveys, as required, to mitigate against operational, post-construction, and cumulative impacts from a development.

Habitat Creation, Restoration & Management

Habitat creation and enhancement is now routinely required under local and national planning policy, and the shift towards mandatory Biodiversity Net Gain.

We are able to provide a full suite of services ranging from the initial production of Management Plans (such as CEMPs and LEMPs) and Biodiversity Enhancement Plans to the practicalities of putting these plans into practice, for example, sourcing and installation of wildlife boxes, and creation of new woodland, meadow, wetland and other habitats.

We are able to draw upon our extensive site teams and expertise in other departments (such as soils and forestry) to provide the complete end-to-end service for our clients as desired. As our ecologists have a strong land management background, they can ensure that new habitats are cost-effective to create and maintain in the long term.

Biodiversity Net Gain

Biodiversity Net Gain is due to become mandatory for all development projects from Autumn 2023, however the principle of no net less is already a requirement under most the National Planning Policy Framework. It is unlikely that most new projects would gain planning consent without consideration of Biodiversity Net Gain.

Our team of ecologists are very experienced in undertaking calculation of Biodiversity Net Gain using the DEFRA and Warwickshire metric, and routinely collect the information required for this process during our habitat assessments. We can support you to understand the full implications for your proposals at an early stage and then work closely with project teams during the design phases to help maximise the biodiversity value of your proposals. Should it not be possible to achieve the required net gain targets under proposals, we can then advise and support our clients with the next steps, including negotiation with land brokers for biodiversity offsetting, as required.

Away from development, we are increasingly working with landowners keen to understand the biodiversity opportunities of their landholdings in line with the emerging Environment Act. We are able to undertake assessments of biodiversity baseline of our clients’ estates at both high level and detailed scale using the DEFRA metric, and from this can assist our clients with strategic planning of their landholdings. For example, we can help identify areas where greatest biodiversity uplift can be achieved, with the aim of providing biodiversity credits which can be used to offset developments under the emerging framework.

For further information on any of the above, please contact a member of our ecology team on

Stakeholder Engagement

With our wider professional experience of land management, Nicholsons enjoys excellent professional relationships with the key environmental stakeholders at both a local and national level.

On your behalf, we are able to use these trusted relationships to deliver positive and proactive engagement that can help to resolve potential issues before they have a negative impact on projects. We can use this extensive experience in facilitating and managing engagement strategies of projects from small local developments to nationally important urban extensions and new settlements.

“Elliot and his team were fantastic. They were great at communicating and the surveying process was very smooth, identifying what issue we faced and how to tackle them. I would certainly recommend!”